Forest fire burns 33,000 acres and 32 buildings in Forks on September 20, 1951.
- By David Wilma
- Posted 7/29/2003
- HistoryLink.org Essay 5493
On September 20, 1951, a forest fire burns 33,000 acres and 32 buildings in Forks, on the Olympic Peninsula, as well as several lumber mills in the area. More than 1,000 residents evacuate as 500 firefighters manage to keep the flames from the rest of town.
The summer of 1951 was exceptionally dry. Hydroelectric utilities curtailed service to industrial users because of low water behind dams. In September, many seasonal firefighters returned to school, leaving crews short handed. A fire thought to have been extinguished sprang to life 19 miles northeast of Forks. East winds drove the flames towards town. Refugees were sheltered at the Naval Station at Quilayute and at the Coast Guard Station in Port Angeles.
The occurrence of a large, destructive fire in that area was unusual because the annual rainfall in Forks was 115 inches.
Fergus Hoffman, "Forest Fire Skirts Forks," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 21, 1951, p. 1; "Forks Returning to Normalcy," Ibid., September 22, 1951, p. 1, 3; "35 New Fires Ravage State," The Seattle Daily Times, September 24, 1951, p. 9; "Forest Fires Under Control," Ibid., p. 9.
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